Friday, April 30, 2010

Writers in their "Downtime" by Susan Meier

One of the newbees on a published-author loop recently asked us what we do in our downtime. She’d been “bought” the year before and in that time had written another book and an anthology. Now she had a proposal in and she wondered what she should do. She wanted to know what we did in our downtime.

The answers from the authors on the loop were great! Two authors traveled. Seriously traveled. LOL One had planned a trip to Thailand! Now that sounds like fun.

One author wrote books and articles for other companies. Still another wrote things she didn’t think would ever get published. They were works she used to stretch her creativity and her imagination.

But most of us did promo work.

While waiting to hear from my editor one DAY, I wrote my ezine (which comes out during the months in which I have a book being released), I updated my website, wrote blogs, wrote ads for two books to be released this summer. I posted excerpts of my books and recipes on two other blogs I run in conjunction with my website, and posted replies to other peoples’ blogs! I practiced a workshop I’m giving live next weekend. Wrote a workshop. And put up 2 lessons of a workshop I’m teaching online.

I did all this while calling my doctor, finalizing my taxes, picking out new siding for my house, programming my GPS unit for a trip on Sunday to my son’s new house, paying the monthly bills, taking the online health survey for my insurance company, doing laundry and dishes, cooking, and cleaning up after the holiday.

I don’t get a lot of downtime between books. So when I get a day, even if I think that day might stretch into two or three, I have to get done absolutely everything that I can.

Lots of people gasp when they see my to-do list. Others shake their heads in awe. But the truth is most working women do this much work in a day, if not more! Especially if they have kids.
This is why I’m proud to be a romance novelist. The books we write typically end up in the hands of frazzled females, desperate for a few minutes of piece and quiet. Maybe some excitement. Maybe a little romance. I’m happy to provide it.

I understand what it’s like to be that frazzled mom. Even though my kids are grown, it wasn’t so long ago I was shuttling little ones to Little League or gymnastics.

And I’m not alone. Most authors understand what it’s like to be at the end of a very short rope.

That’s probably why so many readers love romance novels. Readers click with the books because they were written by women very much like them.

Susan Meier



A BABY BENEATH HIS CHRISTMAS TREE, Har Romance anthology with Barbara Wallace!

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Jenn said...

"Downtime" what is that? As a mom of three wonderful busy kids I don't have much time. I love to read though it is the one thing each day that I look forward to. Books are my outlet where I can go to and just be. I carry a book with me everywhere I go just in case I have a few minutes to open it up and just read. I may hear the persistant child yelling "MOM" around me but I take what I can get.

I want to say thank you to all you authors who write the great books I love to read. Thank you for working hard and thinking of us who love to read your stories.

Toni said...

Downtime, I don't really think that there is such a thing especially for a single mom with a disabled child. For me it is school work, and being a full time Mom and caregiver. Then throw in extended family and I guess my downtime is the few minutes I get to read before I fall asleep.

Valerie said...

Downtime? I have to admit that I don't have a lot of it. Though I don't have kids, I have 2 demanding beagles! DEMANDING!! Who are just spoiled to pieces. :) Between work, church, school, dogs and daily life there just isn't a lot of extra time some days. Much less time to take care of me.

I agree with you, I think the reason we love romance so much is because it's not just entertainment but a form of escape and we're escaping with other women who know exactly what we are hoping to find at the end of the journey. Thank you, and I mean this for all authors, for providing the vehicles for those journeys. =D

Andrea Becraft said...

Wow you are one busy woman! What I do for down time is computer time and reading!

Susan Lute said...

I love your list of things to do. I work a day job, so no down time for me. In fact, I should be writing as I'm typing this :) I have to stop the writing to get to my list...that won't be today :)

Nice to learn this bit about you.

Margay said...

There never seems to be enough time in the day, does there? Especially when you are a mother who has someone hovering in the background, demanding attention! Thank heavens for books, though, they keep me sane. That and knitting.

flchen1 said...

Thanks for the lovely post, Susan--it's neat to know that an author "gets" us! And it's a treat in that occasional downtime to read an author who understands!

red said...

I wish I had more downtime- I work very long hours so I'm out of the house by 7:00 a.m and somedays I don't come back until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. I try to use all my bus time to read so I won't feel like I'm wasting time.

I can't even imagine having kids and finding time to work and do so many other things at home and still read so much.

Susan said...

Jenn! I laughed when I read that you would take what you could get in terms of time to read!

My life is still structured that way. I have books all over the house. Lots of times I read while my DH is watching TV.

I remember telling my kids when they were younger...don't bother me unless it involves blood, flood or fire! LOL


Susan said...

Toni, I know exactly what you mean. My oldest child has a seizure disorder. He still has to live with us because he can't live alone with his condition.

Raising him wasn't exactly difficult per se, but it was a challenge. There really is no time when you can "turn everything off". Even in sleep you have to be alert.

Which makes reading time all the more precious and important!


Susan said...

Valerie, I think the power of connection is what makes books so popular.

When you see and feel your own experience in the books you read, the click of recognition sinks you into the story and makes it richer for you!


Susan said...

Andrea, I am busy but I like to be busy! Sliding in the reading and computer fun you mention and I have a full day.

What's really sweet is that everything I learned on the computer eventually became important to my writing career.

I love it when things like that happen.

Susan said...

Susan! Nice to see you here! We're Pasic buddies, right?

As I said in a previous post, I love to be busy. I think most of us who write, especially when we still have day jobs, enjoy the challenge of seeing if we can get it all done!

I also love being pleasantly tired when I fall into bed! LOL


Susan said...

Margay, I'm reading a Debbie Macomber book right now...Summer on Blossom Street, and, I swear, she makes knitting sound like so much fun I may just find somewhere to take lessons!


Susan said...


I've met enough romance novelists to know that we're all sisters!

We truly understand each other! We truly understand what it means to be "time challenged"!

Plus we understand the underlying joy of our commitment to our families, our friends, our neighbors, our pets...and, oh yes, to our men! LOL



Susan said...

Red, truly, one of the sadnesses of my life is how little time I get to read. I squeeze in as little as paragraphs some days when I get the chance.

But that was one of the tradeoffs I made when I began to use my reading time for writing.

I've never been sorry...per se...but I do sorely miss reading a book a day!


Carol L. said...

I never even bothered to think the word downtime while raising my 7 kids.It sounded like something I'd have to wait a lifetime for.:)
But lo and behold, they are all grown now and I'm so thrilled because my down time finally arrived and I spend it reading and reading.:)
I congratulate all those Authors who are writing and raising children and meeting deadlines. God Bless.
Carol L.

kmt1976 said...

I was so busy while I worked and I could hardly wait until I retired to do all the things I always wanted to do but didn't have the time. I still haven't done them! In fact, I got more non-work related things done when I worked full time, took care of the house and family, served on many committees, etc. than I do now :>(

Margay said...

Susan, knitting IS fun - and therapeutic. It's a good way to lower stress, attain a sense of accomplishment when you make something nice, and it's always good for gift ideas. Luckily, a lot of people I know love homemade things, so I'm always making something for someone! Another benefit: it frees the mind. You wouldn't believe the ideas I come up with and the scenes I work out in my head while knitting!

Sherry said...

I spend my downtime playing on the computer and reading sometimes I read on the computer.

Eva S said...

Not so much downtime with long days at work and children to take care of, but if I have I spend time reading. I agree about the escape. And I love to take long walks with my sister.

Susan said...

Wow,Carol! SEVEN kids?

You seriously did not get downtime! LOL

But big families are also great. There were eleven kids in my family and we're thick as thieves. Love to party together.

You have a lot to show for your years of no downtime!


Susan said...


A lot of my friends have told me that about retirement. They say as soon as you have all the time in the world to do something it doesn't get done! LOL

Maybe you simply need to bask in some downtime for a few years before you get your energy back?


Susan said...

Oooh, Margay! Maybe if I'd take up knitting I'd stop getting my good ideas in church! Then I could stop writing all over the church bulletin, embarrassing my husband!


Susan said...

Sherry, you couldn't pick two better activities than reading and playing on the computer. Both strengthen your mind.

And you never know when your love of both might come in handy!


Susan said...

Eva! Two of my sisters love to walk together. They both tell me walking is great for stress relief.

I walk on my treadmill and I'm afraid I get incredibly competitive with myself. Always trying to beat my numbers. That part isn't stress-less, but I think the actual activity is good for stress! LOL


LM's Drama Queen said...

Aaaah...the day of a modern woman. There's no getting around it, we're busy, tired, and yet we have so much fun! I wouldn't trade my busy schedule for anything. I like having things to do and feeling that sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. My husband is so sweet to try and give me down time( and I appreciate it!) but usually I just get extremely bored. I'll go, sit on the couch, think for a moment, and come up with another fun project for me to work on or a new marketing idea for Mom:) Of course, when I have a book to read, that's an entirely different story...


Lucy Monroe said...

Susan...what a great post and I'm so not surprised by the comments here. We women are busy people and like you, I like it that way. I don't mind when the crazy busy slacks off a bit - it happens - about every ten years or so. ;-) Thanks so much for sharing a look inside the life of a romance author! And for joining us here at the RAH Conf.

Lucy Monroe said...

Susan...what a great post and I'm so not surprised by the comments here. We women are busy people and like you, I like it that way. I don't mind when the crazy busy slacks off a bit - it happens - about every ten years or so. ;-) Thanks so much for sharing a look inside the life of a romance author! And for joining us here at the RAH Conf.

Susan said...

DQ! I hear ya! I think being busy is what gives our lives juice and excitement!


Susan said...

You're welcome,Lucy! My pleasure to be here. It's been fun reading the various blogs all week and seeing the authors' diversified takes on things!

Thanks for hosting!


Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Great post. Down time? Sure! Being a wife and mother is full time and I admire those who can guggle it all. I miss those days or carpooling, sports activities, ballet, etc. For my down time now, I read.

Susan, loved your post!

Stephanie said...

Hi Susan,

There are some days that I don't think I could go on without reading for pleasure. It's truly an escape from the everyday for me. Even if - like you said - it's just a paragraph or a page at a time.

LDee said...

As I read through you comments I'm again amazed at the number of authors who have retired from another job. And, like them I thought I'd have so much 'free' time. Hah. I've found time is like water -- it seeks it's own level.

My todo list looks a lot like yours. Almost every day I have things carried over to the next one but I get a sense of ah ha when I get to delete or mark through tasks.

Great blog - it reminds us that behind every book is a real live, like us person.

Lavada Dee

Katy M said...

I'm a frazzled student (with finals next week!), so my downtime is usually reading and, if I'm lucky, sleeping. When I have more time, I'm online chatting with friends about books, or being active in my community about the environment, or volunteering at my local shelter. But 95% of the time, I finish my day with a book - even if it's just a page or two :)

sonya said...

This is a great post. What a woman not busy please, we where born busy. lol
reading is what I do whenever I have a minute or two.

Jan said...

Frazzled might be an understatement for some. I am a single mom and have raised my boys and taught severe/ profound special education on top of that for the past 16 years.
For me downtime has been plentiful this year. My younger son is in college and it has just been me and the cat at home. *sigh* I've worked a long time for my downtime.
Now I can enjoy all the books I want.

Thank you and all authors for writing them.

Susan said...


I actually "miss" my kids ... as kids. My daughter found a picture of herself in our "old" house ... should be former house...LOL...with big glasses and tons of curly hair. Everybody laughed but me. I burst into tears. I miss that silly goose.


Susan said...


And some times, when I'm reading a book really slowly, I find it even harder to let go of the characters when the book is done.

it's like the longer I live with them the more I'll miss them!


nmulder81 said...

Thanks for the post! I am def one of those frazzled moms! They keep my on my toes and my to-do list is always a mile long. I can't have expensive hobbies as we are quite broke these I turned to books. Buy them new, used or rent from the library...whatever I can do that week with our money. Without my books...I would be in a padded room now for sure!

Susan said...


One of the greatest joys in life is crossing something off the to do list! LOL

(Even if it does get replaced by two more things!)


Susan said...

Katy, you are one busy student!

It sounds like you have your priorities in order though...Never finish a day without a book!


Susan said...

Sonya, I think you're right. We were born busy!

But it's good to know most of us believe that's why we live happy, productive lives.

It's a blessing!


Susan said...

Jan, I'm a huge fan of teachers, but I'm especially in awe of those of you who teach the kids with the special difficulties.

My son benefited greatly from special classes in school. He was taught things like how to balance his checkbook. Things that actually came in handy for him as an adult.

If no one's thanked you lately for your efforts...Let me say thank you!


Susan said...


Books can become like friends...or they can be a great escape. Either way, I think it's important that authors respect the awesome privilege we have of getting to write for such special people!


Terri said...

My usual downtime is reading and playing Pogo. I like to travel but haven't gone anywhere lately. I'm planning to go see Ironman2 and Robin Hood. Enjoy the convention.

Susan said...

Terri! I loved Ironman (the first one) and can't wait to see the second!

But I'm really far behind in movies. My daughter rented Avatar the other night and I was blown away.

I wished I had had time to see it in the theater!


Susan said...

You know, I was just upstairs, thinking about these posts and I realized that both the heroines in my upcoming duet are frazzled women!

Liz owns the company that Ellie works for. So they are both working women.

But because they've also both been abused, Liz by her dad and Ellie by an ex-boyfriend, they both work for a fictional charity that finds homes for abused women with kids.

They work all day, but they are also on-call any time of the day or night. They have to be available in case anyone needs help.

And they fall in love with the women and kids they help at the charity.

I guess I had all of you in mind when I wrote these two books!


Sue A. said...

It seems to me with the advent of the internet that authors have so much more to do then before with self promotion. I really don't know how authors do it all and still manage a personal life!

runner10 said...

I think I enjoy female authors more. I guess I do relate to their point-of-view.

Susan said...

Sue...I've seriously considered hiring my daughter to help me! That would kill two birds with one stone. She'd do the crazy stuff like make airline reservations and we'd spend time together!

But, seriously, I set certain stop times in the day to take breaks so I can see how my son is doing. I also quit every day at the same overtime unless it can't be helped. I also try not to take my laptop on vacations. LOL


Susan said...


I think it all has to do with a shared experience!

When I'm writing I love to find the subtle ideas that will line readers into the story!


WK said...

OMG you are superwoman and I bow to you!!!


Jane said...

What a busy schedule you have. Congrats on your upcoming releases.

Lillie said...

All my downtime is spent reading. So thanks for contributing to my relaxation!

Susan said...

Oh, Wendy! Far from superwoman but I do like to keep busy! LOL


Susan said...

thanks, Jane. Writing that short bit this afternoon about those two stories made me proud all over again for getting the opportunity to write them.

It isn't often great ideas come along, so when they do they can turn into a writer's favorite books!


Susan said...


It always thrills authors to hear that someone's downtime is spent reading!


etirv said...

Excellent post! Thanks to authors like Susan Meier who give readers like me the best downtime activity reading romances!

Susan said...


that's nice of you to say...but really if you took a poll, most authors would say we're the lucky ones!


lindseye said...

Sounds like you are very busy. Most of the authors I follow work full time and/or have children so no down time just time to refocus. FYI-Avatar should be re-released in August with 6 more minutes. I plan to go again.

Denise said...

Susan, your to-do list always amazes me. The most astonishing thing though is that you manage to get so much "other" stuff done while writing books that mean so much to so many people. The light-hearted moments in your writing entertain me while the depths of your characters' relationships touch my heart.


Armenia said...

Susan, you are so right. I am so frazzled when it comes to my kids, and home life, I really look forward to reading my romance just so I can transport myself right out of my busy day. Thanks for posting and keeping us company.

Nichole said...

Life is crazy busy sometimes but nothing would stop me from finding time to read a new book. That's a good idea in theory but unfortunatelyt there are always interuptions.

Refhater said...

I spend my downtime doing volunteer work. There's so many people who need help out there that a little of my time goes a long way. I feel good and am able to help others. To me that's a win win situation.

Susan said...


Wow! Six more minutes and in the theater again!

Some of the "art" of that movie ws so beautiful! I'd love to see it on the big screen or in 3-D.

Maybe I should write myself a note to remember the re-release!

Thanks for telling me this


Susan said...


I think both the lighthearted moments and the depth moments come from just living life. There are so many heroic people in my own life, my son, for instance, who handles his disability with grace. And my daughter who frequently makes me laugh.

Your kids too! LOL

Denise, is a friend of I can tell her her kids sometimes make me laugh!


Susan said...


It's frequently thinking about the people who read my books that nudges me to make scenes the best they can be and also to make characters people they can root for!


Susan said...


I remember the interruptions from when my kids were little!

That was why they had early bedtimes! LOL So I could read!


Raonaid Luckwell said...

Downtime? With an eleven, nine (with ADHD) and five year old, what's that? LOL

Modokker said...

From what i know of authors i don't see there is really downtime. I don't have any first time experience but based on what authors have said in different blog and their facebook pages etc there is always something to do. Whether it's family stuff or the stuff you mentioned. I amagine some people might imagine you just pop out a book then sit and relax for 6 month and then do it again lol Writers are mom and dad and have responsibilites outside work like the rest of us.

It's interesting to see what authors do when they actually DO get a little down time though.


Susan said...


Kids can keep us busy enough...two ADHD kids...I'll bet you are busy!

Susan said...

I was one of those people who imagined I'd take wonderful vacations in between books, but, you're right! It doesn't happen.

But the Promotion end of things can be lots of fun. I've been to two exceptional conferences this year and I've met a lot of wonderful people through facebook, twitter etc.

So even though there's always something to do, lots of times it's something fun!


Natasha A. said...

My downtime? I read :D

Susan said...


That's what authors love to hear!


Lois said...

Downtime's nice. . . just wish it can be long enough most times for a nap; isn't always! LOL


ladybirdrobi said...

You authors definitely amaze me. I'm not that ambitous. I have no kids, barely keep up with housework, maintain two dogs, don't work and just happily play online or read a great deal of the time.


robynl said...

your to-do list amazes me. The astonishing thing though is that you manage to get so much "other" stuff done while writing books

Tamsyn said...

Wow, that's awesome, what you do in one day! I'm a working girl so no downtime for me - usually too beat to do anything once I get home. Hats off to you writers!

Nancy G said...

I am always surprised to hear folks say that writers "just sit at their pc's and make up stories all day, and get paid lots of money for it" I guess if your name is King, yeah, the lots of money comes to you. But I am friends with a few authors, and every one of them holds down a "real" job to pay the bills. Downtime rarely exists for them.

Cathy M said...

Reading romance stories kept me sane while raising twin boys.

erahime said...

To get away from stress, esp. when I was at school, it was a great time to just have a book in hand and read.

It is great to have some time for yourself, even though it may not be enough, but it is still "your" time. a wonderful if fleeting occasion.

Lady_Graeye said...

Nice post. I think eventually we all aren't sure what to do with downtime but we do figure it out. Hang in there, you too will find out what to do with yours!>

donnas said...

Great post. It really seems like no matter what type of job you have now days, there is very very little downtime. Which makes a good book all the more important for those moments you get a break.

Susan said...


I miss naps. For some reason or another I've lost my abiity to nap!


Susan said...

Robin, your post made me laugh. I thought back a few years (decades) and rememembered feeling the same way. Just not ambitious.

Then suddenly one day I had kids and a job (and a husband) and wanted to write and my days of no ambition changed! LOL!!!


Susan said...

Robin L...

The "other stuff" more or less folds into the day. Lots of times, I'll get stuck on a scene and leave my desk and do dishes, or laundry, or dust...or call a friend or do PR.

Then when I get back to my writing, my brain has returned too!


Susan said...


The other part of a day job that lots of people forget is the commute. When I had a long commute to a job once, I remember coming home and flopping on the couch!

Day jobs are difficult for a lot of reasons.


Susan said...

Nancy G

Yes, most writers have to have a day job. Not just because the money isn't as "big" as everyone thinks; but also because it comes in fits and starts. I had to learn to become a good money manager!


Susan said...

Cathy M

Twin boys! Wow. That's cool!


Susan said...


You definitely have to take what you get when it comes to downtime!


Susan said...

Lady Graeye

I really think most of us know naturally what to do with our downtime. It's getting ourselves to do it that's hard.

Like me today...I SHOULD proof my November anthology. I'll probably go shopping. And I don't even really like shopping all that much. I just need to get out of the house!


Susan said...

Donna S

And lots of times the "job" you have doesn't even factor in to how much downtime you have.

If you have kids, aging parents, a don't have much downtime!


Maria said...

Wow Susan- you are a talented multi tasker...I always plan to get alot of things done but sometimes other things get in the way...I don't have kids but I sure do admire those that have kids, work, take care of a house and still manage to find time to's a challenge!

Susan said...

And the younger your kids, Maria, the more difficult it is to actually work a plan! LOL


Rhea said...

WOW - what we women do to make our lives work! I am so glad that we all have books to accompany us on this journey, provide that little escape and mind freedom that comes from reading! Hats off to all women!!

lrwirum said...

wow you are definitely busy. LOL I know I have to make sure I have a little time to do nothing so that I don't get burnt out. :-) Too much stuff always going on.


Susan said...


I sometimes wonder why men don't seem as busy as we are, then I realize they have wives!

Susan said...


Burn out is a big concern of mine. this week my husband and I discussed how I could get out of the house a few times a week since it's summer.

In the winter, it's a given I'll be forced to stay home a lot. I live in the mountains. We get snow! :)

So in the summer I have to get out!


zina said...

OOOHH I am #100. Downtime for me is hiding with a book, sometimes it's in my room, the bathroom and even in the car with the doors locked and kids circling like indians knocking on the window.

Susan said...

Zina! I think we've seen you in a car commercial! LOL (The one where the woman takes her retreat in the minivan that has a TV and a quiet ride!)

Yay for #100!

So glad to see so many readers here. I love people who love books because I love books. I'm surrounded by them!


Susan said...

Marilyn Shoemaker is the winner of the two Susan Meier books!

Congrats, marilyn!